Ricotta & Goat Cheese Tomato Tart

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My sister-in-law came over for dinner this past weekend and I wanted to make something summery, beautiful, and a little decadent. Lo and behold, two gorgeous summer tomato tarts popped up in my Bloglovin feed.

One of them went with ricotta & Parmesan and did not bake the filling. The other (made by a fellow NYC girl!) went with goat cheese, sour cream, and egg whites and baked the filling. I combined pieces of both.

5.5 oz goat cheese with honey, at room temperature
15 oz part skim ricotta
3/4 cup (approx) 2% Greek yogurt
one egg
pinch salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

I whipped these all together in my stand mixer for about 10 minutes on medium-high - I wanted it really truly whipped - while I rolled out my dough. Yes, I went with a trusty ol' Pillsbury. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It had me pre-bake it for about 10 minutes and then cool slightly.

I also got my tomatoes rinsed and ready for slicing. Sadly, the large heirlooms looked really mush or really blah, so I ended up with a slew of tinier red and yellow tomatoes.

I drizzled the tomatoes liberally with olive oil. Once mixed, I poured the cheese filling into the pre-baked crust. I aimed for "jiggly" with the filling but it was looking a little more "liquidy", so I worked quickly. I wanted to get the whole mess into the oven before the tomatoes sank to the bottom.

I seasoned the top with more salt, pepper, and rosemary. I popped it back into the 400 degree oven. After about 15 minutes, I added a tin foil ring around the crust so it wouldn't burn. All in, this stayed in the oven for a little over 30 minutes.

We lost a few of the 'maters who half-sunk into the cheese, but can you blame them? If I had the option to nestle myself into goat cheese and ricotta with honey and rosemary, I would, too.

You can also see that I was opening a bottle of wine when the timer went off.

This is covered in tomatoes and herbs, so it's basically a salad, right?

Never mind the rich crust and the pure dairy filling - it's 100% health food.

I served this alongside Ina Garten's sausages with grapes. The spicy/sweet balance from that dish worked perfectly with this. I wanted to call this a "tomato cheesecake", but I didn't want you to think this was dense at all. Mixing the filling in the stand mixer helped it taste and feel light, almost fluffy. The fluffiness was a great contrast to the rich crust and the tangy fresh tomatoes. The leftovers are perfect out of the fridge for breakfast and reheat beautifully for a take-to-work lunch.

There you go - another Looks Fancy But Isn't Technically Difficult meal! I'd recommend trying it on a day cool enough to fire up the oven, but sooner than later so you can take advantage of all of the fresh tomato bounty right now!

Summertime Uses For Ice Cube Trays

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One of the best things in my kitchen is a set of silicone ice cube trays. They make the most perfectly cubic ice cubes I've ever found and the pliable silicone means you can pop cubes out of the mold really easily. Beyond regular old ice cubes, I've used them recently to preserve fresh items from my fridge that were at risk of spoiling before I used them. Since I love a good squeeze of lemon or lime in summer cocktails, I froze a bunch of fresh lemon and lime juice.

I basically squeezed the hell out of a bunch of limes and lemons (I kept the juice separate) and then poured into the clean tray. I only filled the cubes about halfway up.

I've done this previously to save fresh zest, too. You can either cover the zest with water or a bit of the fresh juice. You can also cut a solid slice of rind to freeze in the cube - it looks really pretty in a cocktail!

I read about the second way to use these trays in the May issue of Real Simple.

Genius, right? Shortly after reading that tip, I had a bunch of chives and fresh thyme in my fridge with no plans to use them. I washed them both, chopped up all the chives, and portioned them out in the cube tray. I covered them with oil - again, not filling all the way - and stuck them into the freezer. Once solid, I popped them out into Ziploc bags and just store them for when I'm ready to cook!

I whipped up a three-ingredient shrimp stir fry using one of the chive cubes. I started off melting it in a pan.

I added in sliced radishes and snow peas - you can see that the chive pieces have spread around the pan on to the vegetables.

Then I tossed in some fresh, cleaned shrimp and added some salt and pepper.

Served with a scoop of quinoa, this was a super speedy weeknight dinner. Just like frozen vegetables are as close to fresh as you can get, popping an herb cube into the mix was a fast way to get that fresh flavor. It took a few minutes of prep but I've been enjoying these cubes for far longer than fresh herbs would have lasted in the fridge.

Next up is freezing coffee into cubes for iced coffee!

Hawaiian Pizza Pork Chops

Monday, July 28, 2014

For those of you who liked the most recent pork post, I have another dressed up chop for you today!

This was one of those meals where I'd surveyed the offerings in the fridge, then flung open the pantry doors, stood there looking at the assorted nonsense on the shelves, ... and then light bulb went off. The fridge had sliced honey ham and shredded mozzarella. The pantry had dried herbs and a can of crushed pineapple left (why I had this, I could not tell you). Ham plus pineapple equals the fruitiest pizza topping combination around: Hawaiian.

I started out with two boneless pork chops (though this could totally work with chicken, too). Since our butcher had cut them extremely thick, I halved them and had four thinner chops. Then, I topped each with some of the pineapple having drained it very well in a colander. On top of that, I laid out a slice of honey ham and sprinkled the tops with shredded mozzarella cheese.

I also gave each chop a hefty shake of dried oregano on top (plus some cracked black pepper). It must have been that my hometown pizza joint served an oregano-heavy sauce because to me, the smell brings me immediately back there, hoping Mom or Dad would slip me some change to play Pac-Man while we waited for our pie.

The chops went into a 375 degree oven for about 25 - 30 minutes and came out with that gorgeously golden brown, semi-crunchy melted cheese that makes your mouth start to water.

The chops shared the oven with a tray of cauliflower florets tossed in smoked paprika. A large kale Caesar salad rounded out the final plate.

Winner, winner, Hawaiian pork chop dinner. Every single flavor came together perfectly.

The pineapple was juicy and sweet, the ham played off the pork perfectly, the cheese added a great salty bite, and the oregano just gave off that telltale pizza parlor aroma. I especially liked that I cut the chops thinner because each and every single bite was the perfect balance of pork, pineapple, ham, and cheese. These sweet and salty chops appeared on the menu again earlier this week - they are that big of a hit. Between these, the Cuban sandwich chops, and Everything Bagel Salmon, I think I have to start putting more already tried-and-true flavor combinations on top of protein! I'll be sure to post whatever I come up with next.

Strawberry Cornmeal Breakfast Cake

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I went late-season strawberry picking over 4th of July weekend at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, Connecticut. We also stopped by their winery and sampled their strawberry wine. As a proud Alpha Delta Pi woman, I immediately broke into song, because every self-respecting ADPi knows every single word to the Deanna Carter classic. J was only semi-mortified.

After the outing, I came home with the most stunning and perfectly sweet strawberries, but they were more of them than I knew what to do with. So, I fired up my oven the first weekend of July and surprised my coworkers with a treat first thing on Monday morning.

I actually made two cakes because I had that many berries to use up. First was my beloved Smitten Kitchen lemon yogurt anything cake and I hoarded that at home for myself. Second was a cornmeal-spiked cake from Katie At The Kitchen Door. It also has yogurt like the SK one, but the cornmeal added a really unique gritty bite to the cake.

Hi, is this not the most perfect berry you've ever seen?

I made the batter according to the recipe, though I used just slightly less than 1/2 cup of sugar since I was increasing the berry amount. I folded one and a half cups of strawberries (maybe more) into the batter and then placed some slices on top. I'm telling you - SO MANY STRAWBERRIES TO USE.

I also used a 9x9 instead of the recipe-recommended loaf pan. I like the square shape if I'm cutting the final product into bite-sized work sharing pieces. This went into a 350 degree oven at the same time as the SK cake. I didn't know how sharing the oven would impact bake time, so I checked both at the 40 minute mark and every 5 after that. This cornmeal cake came out around the 50 minute mark, per my recollection.

I let it cool for about 5 minutes in the pan before turning it out onto parchment paper on top of a wire rack.

I left it on our office kitchen island just before 9 am. It was gone by 10:30. Every single bite contained a sweet burst of strawberry. The yogurt made the cake very creamy, but there was still an incredible texture from the cornmeal. Absolutely a winner - I can't wait to recreate this and actually keep it at home! It would be perfect at breakfast, with some bubbles at a brunch spread, or even as a mid-afternoon snack alongside a hot cup of tea. I can't wait to try this with other berries, too - I'm guessing blackberries plus cornmeal will be a match made in heaven.

Meatless Monday: Spinach Artichoke Dip Tortellini

Monday, July 21, 2014

What else is there to do when you have cream in your fridge than make a pasta cream sauce? While meatless and containing spinach, please do not trick yourself into thinking this is a healthy dinner. All in all, this is spinach artichoke dip on top of cheese-filled pasta. You're effectively looking at the foods behind my Freshman 15.

The general recipe here is pretty basic.

- 1 box spinach tortellini
- 10 marinated artichoke hearts (quartered)
- 1/2 box baby spinach
- 1 cup light cream
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour

First, I made the tortellini - boil water, cook the pasta, drain the pasta. In the same pan, I started by making a roux - cooking the flour in the butter. Then, I added the cheese and cream, whisking to incorporate the two. Then I added the spinach to begin to wilt and, about two minutes later, the artichoke hearts. I poured in the wine for a little added flavor - salt and pepper at this step for flavor. Finally, I dumped all of the hot pasta back into the pot, stirring well to combine with all of the sauce and vegetables. I made a final aggressive move with the pepper grinder after I dished myself a bowl.

Ok, fine... these really only made up 10 of the Freshman 15. The other five were all Natty Light.

Chicken In Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

Friday, July 18, 2014

My wonderful friend Kat started a new job in the city last month and she and her husband, Matt, joined us for dinner recently. Since they live in the suburbs, we don't see them as often as we'd like, and having them come by on a weeknight was an even more special treat. I thought about what to make for a woman who had worked a 10+ hour day after a long, early morning commute. I knew I wanted some big flavors with relatively easy execution. Start to finish, this dish is a breeze to put together, but it tastes and looks very fancy.

I baked 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 350° degrees having seasoned them simply with salt and pepper. You could also bread them and pan sear, or even grill them - I think the charred flavor would blend deliciously with the sauce. I also popped in a pan of broccoli cut into florets - I wanted something actually healthy to make it onto the plate.

The sauce was essentially a food processor creation and contained:

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly chopped
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves (it was a big fistful, if you're not in the mood to measure)
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup chicken stock

Put the basil and sun-dried tomatoes into the food processor. I reserved a few pinches of the sliced tomatoes to garnish the final plate, but that's totally optional. I also added 1/4 cup of the light cream and the 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Pulse until all is well mixed - it became kind of a paste-like consistency, like a thick pesto or hummus. Then, I browned the garlic in some olive oil and added the sun-dried tomato basil paste to the pan to heat up. About a minute later, I added the remaining 1/4 cup of cream and whisked everything into a nice smooth sauce.

I dished up the four chicken breasts on a platter and topped them with some of the sauce and remaining chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I served the rest of the sauce in a small pitcher for those who wanted more on the plates. Everybody OOOHed and AAAHed when I brought it to the table, but those sounds were quickly replaced by the silence of chowing down.

This was 95% perfect - the sauce needed salt. So, we each added our desired amount of sodium at the table and hit that 100% mark! It was absolutely delicious. It took less than 30 minutes to make, was decadent and creamy, but still vibrant and flavorful with the sweet sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Keep this recipe in mind the next time you're in the market for a fast and easy but beautiful and delicious dinner!

Cuban Sandwich Pork Chops With Horseradish Pickles

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In college, one of my sorority sisters worked in a restaurant on campus and I'd often visit her at work between classes. She served me my very first Cuban sandwich, as well as my first (of many) servings of sweet potato fries. This dish is an homage to those college-era lunches.

To start, I made a big ol' batch of pickles. Here's what I used:

6 Kirby cucumbers, sliced into rounds
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon horseradish
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Garlic clove, minced

I combined the vinegar, water, the horseradish, and salt and brought to a boil. While that heated, I covered the sliced cucumbers with the mustard seeds, peppercorns, and garlic. Once the liquid was boiling, I poured it over the top of the cucumbers.

I let the pickles sit out and cool down before putting into the refrigerator; I actually let them sit overnight before using them for the pork chops. That rest day allowed them to marinate more and the flavors came together so perfectly. The pickles weren't too salty and the bold flavors of the pepper and mustard shone through. My favorite part was the unexpected zing from the horseradish. I am a pretty huge fan of horseradish and would add more next time to really make them spicier, but the measurement for this batch certainly got the point across. I honestly can't believe I haven't made homemade pickles before - it was way easier than I thought!

For the main meal, I took the sandwich part out of of the mix. What remains from that classic is shredded pork or ham (often both), cheese, pickles, and mustard. Since there was a very present mustard flavor in the pickles already, I skipped adding any more. I densely layered pickles on top of boneless pork chops.

And then I added cheese. And got so excited about melting cheese over the top of a pickle-heavy pork chop I forgot to take a photo that was properly focused. I could have taken more, but my mouth was watering (I'd already snacked on some of the pickles) and I forged ahead.

Traditionally, Cuban sandwiches use Swiss cheese, which would have been perfection here, but I had provolone in my fridge. I figured they were both on the mild end of the spectrum and both melted well, so it worked in my mind.

My hat tip to the sweet potato fries was a simple side of roasted sweet potatoes. I cut a potato into quarters length-wise and then sliced those quarters thinly. Tossed with some oil and Herbs de Provence, they cooked up alongside the pork chops in a 375° oven (about 30 - 40 minutes for the pork since the chops were on the thick side - a meat thermometer can help you determine when it's truly done).

100% winner. You got the briny tender bite of the pickles, the creamy cheese with the crusty brown top, and the juicy pork chop. It's the bread-free version of one of my favorite sandwiches. The crispy roasted sweet potato only intensified the nostalgia factor of the whole plate for me. I'd start daydreaming up reinventions of other beloved college foods, but Hangover Five Guys is pretty perfect on it's own, don't you think?

Zucchini Tian, Two Ways

Monday, July 14, 2014

Joyeux Le Quatorze Juillet! I'll be listening to Edith Piaf on repeat at work today and remembering these delicious yet very different zucchini tians I whipped up recently.

One of the best and worst things about my lunchtime pilgrimages to the Union Square farmers' market is that I go overboard. It didn't seem that a bunch of radishes and two zucchinis would be too much for one meal - my future cause of death will patently be "produce overdose" - but that opinion changed once I sliced everything up at home.

I don't even remember what my original plan was for these, but looking down at a massive bowl of zucchini and radish rounds, I recalled seeing a beautiful summer tian recipe - it looked like a potato au gratin dish with many more colorful vegetables. Trusty ol' Wikipedia succinctly said that a "tian can be described as a gratin in the Provençal style." Done and done. Tians very commonly include goat cheese, but neither of mine did. Tant pis. I made two: one with herbs and feta cheese and one with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

I started the first iteration with a glass pie dish and made an outer ring of zucchini. Pro tip that I learned the hard way? The slices will not stand up against the sides if there's nothing holding them up from the center. They all fell flat until I started to stuff in some of the radishes. Once I got more into the middle of the dish, the zucchinis stayed propped up - I just added more of the rounds to fill in any gaps. I also sliced up a small onion and used half of those in the center. I topped it with Herbs de Provence and feta cheese.

For the second, I just did vertical layers - the rest of the onion on the bottom, the rest of the radishes in the middle, and the rest of the zucchini on top. I blanketed the top with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese mixed with 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs.

I planned on baking both but reserving the Parmesan version for another night. I envisioned it as a side dish to some meatballs or some roasted eggplant. I popped both into a 350° oven for about 30 minutes.

I quickly changed my mind about saving the Parmesan tian.

Mind made up, I'd obviously save the feta tian for another night - except how could I honestly say no to this watercolor painting exquisiteness?

I went for it and split the baby had a helping of each.

The chicken was chicken. The tians were both vehicles for getting some much beloved zucchini into my belly and they were incredibly delicious vehicles. The vegetables in the more Provençal version were tender and perfectly highlighted by the Herbs de Provence. I would have liked a meltier cheese than the feta, but I still loved the bold salty punch of flavor. The Parmesan version was crunchy and cheesy. It truly reminded me of a great eggplant parmesan dish without any tomato sauce. The sweet radishes and onions underneath were a great flavor and texture contrast to the golden brown top layer.

There was not a single bite left of the crumby/Parm version, but I used up the other for Saturday breakfast. I scrambled a few eggs, poured them over the top, and baked at 300° for about 15 until the eggs set.

Next time, I want to use goat cheese or another cheese that really melts well across the top. I also could have made one large tian in a lasagna or casserole dish, which is likely my plan for the next time this side dish pops up on my menu. I hope some of you have been inspired by these couple of French dishes and enjoy your Bastille Day!!!
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